It may have been a wet, dreary day but the Blue Devils’ field hockey team wasn’t going to let that depress its spirits on Senior Day.
After losing both of its games last weekend, the No. 4 Blue Devils avoided their first three game losing streak since 2011, beating No. 20 Wake Forest 4-0 on Friday. They followed it up with another win against No. 22 Old Dominion on Sunday, winning 1-0 at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium. Duke dominated both possession and number of shots on Sunday but couldn’t find a way to translate the shots into goals, just squeaking by the Monarchs, who were coming off an upset win against No. 15 Liberty.
Duke head coach Pam Bustin took Senior Day to heart and all of the seniors on the Blue Devils’ roster started the game.
“We started all six seniors today, so that tells you about the ability of this group to play and influence the success of this program,” said Bustin. “Obviously, with players like Jill [Wolgemuth], Margaux [Paulino], Haley [Schleicher], Sammi [Steele] for sure, the addition of Hattie [Bevan] and with Kirby [Comizio] getting in there today, they’re the drivers of what we do this season. And so, we go as they go.”
Coming into the weekend, the Blue Devils (10-3) had given up seven goals in the span of two games, a season high in any two-game stretch. But after a dominant defensive performance against Wake Forest on Friday, it looked like Duke was back to its defensive ways. That held true Sunday, as goalie Steele recorded her sixth shutout of the season and her second in a row.
Offensively, however, the Blue Devils couldn’t seem to find any rhythm, even after their four-goal outing against Wake Forest just days before. Duke attempted just three shots in the first quarter, none of them on target.
“[I’m] a little disappointed in our offensive connections this afternoon,” said Bustin. “It’s hard - we hit more feet than we did stick-to-stick passing and that’s bizarre. I think it’s just the rhythm, getting our midfield connected with our forward line better and quicker. But I am pleased with how we pressed, I’m pleased with how we came up with the ball in the midfield, [and] we defended their long ball which can be very dangerous. We just have to get back to the connection.”
Going into the second quarter, it was clear that some adjustments had been made, with several near opportunities for Duke but none of them found their way between the posts. The Blue Devils controlled the ball, but the Monarch defense held tough, keeping Duke toward the middle of the field and swarming whoever managed to bring the ball up into the circle.
Then, with just minutes left in the second quarter, Duke finally received its first penalty corner of the game and it looked like it would break Old Dominion’s defense which had bent but had not yet broken. However, the Monarch’s keeper managed to make the save, keeping the game at a scoreless draw.
But the pressure on the Monarchs (7-5) wasn’t over, as Duke was immediately awarded another corner and this time the Blue Devils made the most of it. Sophomore forward Leah Crouse missed her first shot off the corner but corralled it, readjusted, and shot again. This time the ball had just enough power and direction to get past the goalie who had come too far off her line and the ball trickled in much like the rain was trickling down and the Blue Devils took the lead 1-0 heading into halftime.
The second half started off with a bang, as Old Dominion’s Erin Huffman was hit square in the face by the ball. But that would prove to be the only action of the half, as the rest of it progressed much the same way as most of the first, with Duke generating multiple opportunities but failing to convert on any of them. The Blue Devils ended the match with 12 shots, six of those on goal, but only the one goal in the first half to show for them.
The Blue Devils continue their grueling schedule with a road trip next weekend to No. 9 Virginia on Friday and James Madison on Sunday. After responding to two tough losses last weekend with a pair of wins this weekend, Duke will look to continue this winning stretch next weekend as it inches closer to ACC and NCAA Championships.
“We have to play at home and feel good about that and then come together and be on the road together with the same intensity,” Bustin said.
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